I treat homeschooling and virtual class as if I’m about to be deployed on an expedition that requires preparation. One of the ways I do to prep for my class is to arm myself to the teeth with gadgets to help enhance my virtual classroom. I have invested personal resources to upgrade my tools and gadgets because they simply help me save time and become productive. In the article below, I’m going to mention my top 10 tools and gadgets and how I used them as teacher and student.
- Ring Light
Ring light was one of the things I thought I would never need. I saw beauty Vloggers use ring lights for their YouTube videos. But I never thought I’d need one myself until I enrolled for my master’s study this year.
The start of this school year coincided with rainy days so that the sky is overcast most of the time. Day light was my only light source when I conducted watercolor beginner class sessions last summer. When rainy days started, I struggled a lot when sketching and taking photos of my paintings so I decided to buy a desk ring light. I use it now when I paint. The ring light also doubles as our study lamp at night time. My class for my master’s study is at night time so my ring light has become an invaluable tool when I’m burning the midnight oil to to read scientific journals and books. The photo on the left was taken the other night while painting an elephant on our dining table.
I haven’t conducted a watercolor beginner class lately but I will surely use my ring light when I do. The light from my ring light is also so intense that I used it to illuminate my mineral samples for my students, photo gallery below:
2. Secondary Web Camera
Another tool that I never thought I would need was a secondary web camera. But in my mineralogy class, I deemed it necessary to have one so that I can show both my self and close-up views of minerals that my students will have to see and describe. This one isn’t as great as normal cameras of a regular smart phone but for my purpose, it is good enough. I also like that it’s very cheap. I got this one through this link (take note, I don’t earn from recommending this website):
3. Bluetooth Speaker
Nope, I don’t use this speaker to listen to music because the sound quality isn’t that great. I have my Google Mini to play Spotify for me. There are channels in YouTube that we follow and whose videos we watch for great educational content. However, some of them do have poor sound quality and my old laptop’s speakers aren’t great as well. We use this speaker a lot when we watch educational videos. I also like that it’s small so we could bring it with us when we travel. This Bluetooth speaker was actually given as gift from a friend who works in Shell, so this one has a logo of the company.
4. Google Mini
On days when I just feel so overwhelmed by my study, my mommy duties, or life in general, I would go inside our room and ask Google Mini to play soothing music. My favorites are nature sounds but I do listen to various local and international artists. I even have playlist for work, meditation, and sleep! There would be days also when I would strum my ukulele along while listening just to unwind.
I didn’t buy our Google Mini though. I actually won it through a raffle draw! On days when I’m busy with my tasks and classes, I would ask my son to ask Google for spelling of complicated words and for general questions such as, “What’s the tallest mountain the world?”, “What is the most active volcano in Philippines?”, and all other questions kids seem to ask a lot these days.
I still like using dictionaries – we have three different ones at home! But, I do love how I can just ask Google to find the definition for me by speaking to it. Super convenient!
I know it seems redundant that I have two types of speakers and now have a pair of earphones too. However, my eldest son’s virtual class is whole day. This means I would have classes simultaneous with his. On times when I am easily distracted by his teacher’s lessons or their classroom banter, I just pop these babies into my ears so that I can hear my own students clearly. Why AirPods in particular? No reason, really. I got this pair as gift. Any pair of earphones work for me but I do love that with AirPods, I can walk around while I talk to my students during consultation at Discord when I don’t need to share screen nor show any mineral specimen on camera. That way, I don’t need to be sedentary all the time. I could even wash the dishes while I talk! For mommies out there, this one’s for the win!
6. Tablet – Secondary to PC
While I do believe any tablet would work, Apple’s iPad is my favorite one for durability. I have iPad mini that I bought in 2012 and it’s still alive today. My second one is a 6th generation I bought in 2018 using the Christmas cash bonus from my previous job. I love using my iPad for annotating images and PDF files; watching Netflix; typing notes; reading my e-mails and scientific journals; watching Google Classroom sessions by my art mentors; and organizing my life, really! My whole life is in this iPad. Haha! These days though I use my iPad a lot for checking my students’ work which are usually submitted in PDF format. I like how I don’t need to print their work to grade them.
Why don’t I use my PC for checking and grading? I simply like the idea of marking my students’ work on my tablet which is akin to checking printed ones. It’s a personal preference, really.
7. Apple Pencil/Stylus
While any stylus will do, my thesis advisor recommended Apple pencil for my thesis study which requires me to annotate hundreds of images with precision. I also like how I can seamlessly mark up my students’ work with this. But since Apple pencil does not work on Android phone, the only one I have, I decided to get one generic stylus for my phone as well. I would need the other stylus in case I need to annotate while in transit and I only have my phone with me. I have also started annotating scientific journals for my study lately thus, a stylus is a good investment. Here’s a link to a Shopee store where I got my high quality generic stylus for my Android phone (again, I don’t earn from recommending this store):
9. Multiple USB Port Extension
If you have read this far, then you have prolly realized that I use quite a lot of gadgets. Thus, a multiple USB port extension is necessary! One of the caveats of using AirPods is that I can only use it straight for 3 hours or before it dies on me. I have two laboratory classes whose duration is four hours each! When that happens, I resort to using my PC’s or the Bluetooth speakers (which also requires charging by the way) while I charge my AirPods. I got this one from my favorite stores in Lazada, Ugreen, for computer peripherals because the quality of their products are great:
10. Power Bank
I have always relied on power banks during power outages which would happen during typhoons. I keep my power bank fully charged for cases like this. I bought this one recently because our old one died on us from the same store where I got my multiple USB port extension. I also plan to bring this one with me when I start going on geologic fieldworks again. Sometimes we go to areas where power interruptions are common so having a back-up power source for my gadgets is a must.
So those are just my top 10 tools/gadgets that have been useful for me as an MS student as well as teacher for my geology undergrad students and my youngest son. What are your favorite gadgets? Do share!